|There's no better prize in snowshoe|
racing then a loaf of bread
from the VT Bread Company!
WOODFORD, Vermont -- My 2010 racing season came full circle yesterday at the I Love Woodford snowshoe race. It was 12 months ago that my first race of the year was had on snowshoe's as well. As the first "Cup Event" of the new Northeast Snowshoe Federation there was extra motivation to take the trip west to the beautiful Bennington County region of the state. Last winter was brutal for snowshoe racing as many races were postponed and some were even cancelled due to the sketchy conditions. Rumor had it that Woodford always had snow so NH-Masters Runner of the Year, teammate, and all around great guy Steve Wolfe and I headed to VT. The "Blizzard of 2010" notwithstanding, southern NH hadn't had a significant snowfall prior to Sunday. Which meant that my first time on snowshoes (in 9 months) would be race day. Steve and I arrived early and had a chance to chat with our snowshoe friends Dave Dunham, Bob Dion, and Bill Morse. It's hard to say what I enjoy more about the sport...the people, the beautiful locations, or the competition? Then again, why choose? Wolfe and I headed over to the start about 30 minutes early to warm-up and scout the last few hundred meters. The roughly 3.5 mile lollipop would be comprised of 100% virgin snow with 90% fast & packed twisting singletrack. I made a mental note before the race that the first and last 300+ meters was on a park access road and provided plenty of opportunity to pass. A pre-race scan revealed the typical big hitters including defending WMAC & GSSS Champion Jim Johnson, the #1 ranked Master in the Northeast Tim VanOrden, Dunham, and of course my teammate Steve Wolfe. I didn't recognize many other faces and the field seemed a little smaller than race reports from previous years had indicated so I felt comfortable lining up in the second row. As soon as the start command was given and I was 100 meters or so into the race the whole snowshoe racing thing came back to me as if March were yesterday. And Wolfe was right...it started like a road 5k. With snow and elbows flying I stayed to the right outside line and focused on not falling on this initial stretch with 100+ sets of sharp cleats bearing down on me from behind. The field thinned and got in single file as we climbed the first and only significant ascent of the course. I was directly behind Wolfe letting him pull me up the hill (which he really enjoys). The two of us were in the Top 10 as we hit the singletrack. Almost immediately into this section a couple of snowshoers came back to us as we pushed hard on the rollercoaster fast packed snow. Steve leapfrogged a slower competitor putting that 'shoer between us. Within two minutes the guy asked if I wanted the spot to which I happily obliged. At this point Steve had already overtaken another competitor and was quickly working out of sight. Within a minute or so I had caught John Agosto of the Shenipsit Striders, a fellow Masters competitor, and heck of a snowshoer and trail runner. John was working really hard and maintaining a great cadence so I stuck on his heels as we flew around Adams Reservoir. Just before we popped back out onto the access road for the 1/4 mile to the finish I peeked back to see if we would have a challenge. Without anything in sight it was John and I for the two spots. As I pulled alongside of him I implored him to continue to work as he had earned the spot ahead of me for his effort on the singletrack. He thanked me and encouraged me to go ahead. Feeling fresh and confident of the location of the finish I leaned forward and tried to muster a snowshoe-specific "kick". I felt very strong and relaxed as I finished in 24:57 and 7th overall (4th Master). Steve finished about 40 seconds and 1 place ahead of me in 6th overall. Excellent showing for aR with two in the Top 10. And just as advertised we were handed a loaf of bread from the Vermont Bread Company. I ate three slices of my Vermont Sweet (made with VT maple syrup) on the ride home. As physically demanding as snowshoe racing is it's equally as fun. It just doesn't get any better than flying through a beautiful snow covered forest with great competitors. What a fitting ending to a brilliant year of racing! Can't wait for the next snowshoe race...and the start of 2011.
NEXT UP: Beaver Brook Snowshoe Race, Hollis, NH (GSSS #1)